Broadway to Dim Lights for Hinton Battle, Dancer Who Won Record 3 Best Actor Tonys

Initially only a select number of theaters were going to dim their lights but the Broadway League of theater owners reversed course under pressure on March 2 and said all theaters will dim lights on March 12 in honor of the original Scarecrow in “The Wiz” who would go on to win a record three Tony Awards for best actor in a musical.

| 03 Mar 2024 | 03:39

All of the lights on the Great White Way will go dark for a full minute on March 12 to honor the memory of Hinton Battle, a three-time Tony Award winning actor and dancer Hinton Battle who passed away on Jan. 30.

Initially, only a select number of theaters were planning to go dark and it had stirred controversy in the tight knit Broadway community.

“Just so we’re clear, no human being has won more Tonys for Best Featured Actor in a Musical than Hinton Battle, yet he’s only receiving a partial dimming light tribute on Broadway. Do better, @BroadwayLeague,” OnStage blog posted on X, (formerly Twitter.)

On March 2, the Broadway League, the association of theater owners reversed course and announced all theaters would join in the tribute to Battle who was 67 at the time of his death in Los Angeles.

”After further consultation among the Committee of Theater Owners and reflecting on the impact of Hinton Battle, the Committee has shared with his family that all Broadway theaters will dim their lights in his honor on March 12, 2024 at 6:45 p.m. for one minute,” said Jason Laks, interim president of The Broadway League.

”As we continue to remember Mr. Battles remarkable talent and array of roles, the decision was made to dim all lights as the most appropriate way to recognize his legacy on Broadway and within the community.”

Battle was born in Neubrücke, West Germany where his father was stationed in the U.S. Army. At 13, he won a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York and landed the role of The Scarecrow in the original all black version of The Wiz when he was only 18 years old. An older sister who was already in the chorus urged him tryout while it was still playing out of town, according to his obituary in the Times. Before it reached Broadway, he was elevated to a starring role as the Scarecrow.

He would go on to a win a record three Tony awards for best actor in a musical starting with the 1981 Duke Ellington revue, “Sophisticated Ladies,” for “The Tap Dance Kid,” in 1984 where he played Dipsey Bates, an aspiring Broadway dancer and choreographer and a third in “Miss Saigon” in 1991 where he sang but did not dance, playing the role of John a US Marine who brings together his sergeant and a Vietnamese bar maid in a doomed love affair.

“Some people are born with the spirit of the dance,” Debbie Allen, a dancer, choreographer and actress said in a statement the New York Times announcing his passing. She had known him she was 16 and worked with him on Broadway. “Hinton Battle was that kind of person,” she stated. “He was just technically superior to anyone who came close to him. He had rhythm and style. You were looking at a supernova.”

After two years starring in “The Wiz” he left to join the Lyric Opera Company in Chicago and the Dance Theater of Chicago before returning to Broadway as a replacement performer in “Dancin’” before joining the original cast of “Sophisticated Ladies” in 1981 where the classically trained ballet dancer had to take an intensive crash course in tap dancing before the show opened.

He appeared in an episode of the tv series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and appeared in the 1996 revival of “Chicago,” and the 1978 Broadway production of“Dreamgirls” as well as the film version of “Sophisticated Ladies” (1982) and “Dreamgirls” (2006).